As I am sure you are all aware, today the Beard Liberation Front (BLF) announced that the restaurant critic Jay Rayner has been named the winner of the Beard of the Year Award 2011. This is part of the BLF’s campaign to oppose “beardism” and the “irrational prejudice against the hirsute”, and got us thinking that 2011 has actually been a very good year for facial hair.
The most high-profile facial hair event of the year is, of course, Movember when thousands of men spend the month of November growing ridiculous moustaches to raise awareness of prostate cancer and other health issues affecting men. This year’s campaign seemed to us to be the biggest yet. Everywhere you went throughout the month, you would see men sporting a furry upper lip. A tremendous amount of money was raised by the men who took part but special mention must go Martin Broughton, the chairman of British Airways, who managed to raise a whopping £51,693 from his efforts.
The success of Movember has helped spawn a number of similar campaigns. For example, Decembeard which aims to raise awareness of bowel cancer among men during the month of December and boasts a number of high-profile participants including the TV presenter Chris Evans. Another notable campaign is organised by the Welsh Rugby Players’ Association. Taking place in November each year, Grow a Grav is named after the late, great Welsh international Ray Gravell who was known for his trademark beard (see above right). The campaign was hugely popular among the Welsh rugby community and will hopefully spread more widely in the future.
The growing (no pun intended) use of facial hair as a campaign tool is a fascinating phenomenon. 2011 seems to have been the year when such campaigns became mainstream and we say long may it continue.